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Health and care teams across Bedfordshire, Luton, and Milton Keynes are working to prepare for the increasing pressures on services as winter 2021 approaches.

BLMK Integrated Care System (ICS) said it is working to ensure that local organisations are as ready as possible to deal with the rising demands of the annual flu season, illnesses and accidents caused by the cold weather and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

BLMK ICS is the partnership of organisations working across health and social care.

The ICS believes that a joined-up approach to planning health and social care, integrating services and improving response times through better communications will be key to maintaining services this winter.

Felicity Cox, executive lead at Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System, said:

“Many organisations look after the health and social care of people living in Bedfordshire, Luton, and Milton Keynes, but the creation of our integrated care system allows us to pull together even more and support each other more effectively than ever this year.

“By working in partnership, we can integrate our services and our different teams have a greater understanding of each other’s needs and the pressures they face after working so closely together during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Cathy Jones, deputy chief executive at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“All BLMK ICS partners were committed to the principles of ‘Home First’ and ‘Discharge to Assess’, supporting patients to leave hospital or an intermediate community bed and return home when it is safe and appropriate for them to do so.

“This approach increases the flow of patients through beds in hospitals and allows them to receive ongoing care in their own homes where they would prefer to be and where they recover more quickly, or in community facilities such as the Archer Unit in Bedford.”

Discharge teams and other services have worked closely together to simplify the amount of information needed when transferring patients between services.

The ICS said that this has led to the design of a quicker and more efficient system for discharging patients into intermediate services in future.

Teams have also worked together to simplify the process of booking care home placements for elderly and frail patients, with commissioners and providers working jointly to secure spaces at a time when demand is high and the care home sector has been under great strain during the pandemic.